Mar 4, 2008

Flames win 11th straight Big South title

by David Hunt

Liberty University put a giant stamp of ownership on the Big South Indoor Track & Field title last weekend, and they did it with confidence. The men’s team grabbed its 11th straight Big South title while the women’s squad finished second overall for the third straight year.
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“We did well,” junior James Doak said. “I think everyone had their personal goals they were striving for, and of course, we wanted to defend our title and perform well.”
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There were plenty of peak performances over the two-day meet (Friday and Saturday) and many of the athletes churned in performances good enough to get them to the next round of races, the IC4A (men) and ECAC (women) Championships.
Senior Josh McDougal led the men’s team with a quick win in the 3,000-meter race. McDougal cruised to a meet-record 7:54 and became only the second athlete in any event to win the same event for four consecutive years. McDougal also won the mile in 4:05. Both were good enough to qualify him for the IC4A Championships. 
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McDougal was followed closely in the 3,000-meter race by senior teammate Jarvis Jelen, who came in third with a time of 8:25, a three-second personal best.
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“Since I haven’t been training more than a few weeks,” Jelen said, “I’m pretty happy with the time.”
The younger McDougal, Jordan, hammered in a first-place finish in the 25-lap, 5,000-meter competition. He finished in 14:25. Teammate Evans Kigen was third in 14:34.           
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On the field, the Flames saw many more high finishes. Junior Matt Parker won the long jump with an airborne 23-2 3/4foot leap, which qualified him for the IC4A championships. Freshman Clarence Powell also jumped well, finishing third overall with a jump of 22 3/4 feet and winning the triple jump outright in 48 feet even.
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Parker also won the high jump with a sky-high 6-10 1/4 foot jump and took second in the 60-meter hurdles in 8.25 seconds (followed by senior Tim O’Donnell in third in 8.49).
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Senior Clendon Henderson kicked off the throwing events for the strong Liberty men’s team with a meet record toss of 58-1 3/4 feet. Senior Jon Hart was right behind with a second place finish in 52-10. 3/4 feet.
Hart was not finished as he went on to claim first place in the weight throw with a new school record and IC4A qualifying toss of 66-6 1/2 feet.
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Freshman Kolby Shepherd set yet another Liberty freshman record in the polevault with a new personal best of 16-4 3/4 feet. The jump also broke the Big South meet record.
Senior Brandon Hoskins won the heptathlon with a score of 5,383 (an IC4A qualifier) while freshman teammate Geren Woodbridge tied for second place with 4,502 points.
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The distance relay was won by an authoritative five seconds by freshman Mark Hopely, senior Kevin Correa, junior Jordan McDougal and senior Tim O’Donnell.
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Junior Phil Leineweber took second in the 200-meter dash in 22.47.
In the men’s final race of the championships — the 4x400-meter relay race — Parker, Jacey Bailey, Leineweber and O’Donnell nailed down second with a time of 3:19.
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Meanwhile, the women grabbed a second place finish (behind Coastal Carolina), and there were plenty of highlights happening trackside for the Lady Flames.
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Freshman Mia Aghaji won the high jump with a smooth-sailing 5-3 1/4 feet while senior Charlene Hibbert took second in the long jump with a leap of 17-11 3/4 feet.
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Neither athlete was done. Hibbert ran second in the 400-meter dash in 56.67 seconds, which tied with sophomore teammate Chenoa Freeman. Aghaji wound up third in the triple jump with a jump of 38-1/2 feet.
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In the women’s distance races, the Lady Flames took home a lot of points. Starting off with the 800-meter race, junior Jamie Watson broke her own school record, as well as a Big South record, with a 2:09 finish.
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The 3,000-meter race was taken out hard by senior Carol Jefferson, who took second with a time of 10:05. She was followed by freshman Dacia Bushman in 10:11.
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In the mile freshman Kati Albright took second in five minutes while junior Rebekah Ricksecker ran third with a 5:02. 
In the 5,000-meter race, senior Carol Jefferson led two more runners in a strong two-three-four finish for the Lady Flames. Jefferson ran in with a 17:29 (ECAC qualifier) with senior Rachel Valliere coming in third (17:41) and Piper Newby in fourth (17:54).
In the 4x400-meter race, the team of Freeman, Aghaii, Hibbert and Watson finished third in 3:51.
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“There weren’t too many surprises,” teammate Luke Garvey said. “We know we’ve been good at the Big South and everyone just performed how they’ve been preparing.”
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While this marks the end of the road for most Liberty track and field athletes, those who qualified for the next round will head north to Boston next weekend to participate in the IC4A and ECAC Championships.

Contact David Hunt at dhunt@liberty.edu


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